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Dec. 27 update on Highway 97C bus crash Christmas Eve

Contributor
By Contributor
December 27th, 2022

On Dec. 24, 2022 at approximately 18:14 hours the BC Highway Patrol and Merritt RCMP were advised of a single vehicle collision around Loon Lake on Hwy 97c east of Merritt BC.

Police and emergency services responded and located a commercial E-bus that had gone off road to the left and rolled onto its passenger side coming to rest in the eastbound lanes.

At this time investigators believe the bus was occupied by 45 passengers and the driver. It is believed that 46 persons in total were on the bus. Investigators are attempting to confirm this number. We can confirm, tragically 4 passengers were found deceased at scene.  It is believed that 22 passengers were transported to the Kelowna hospital, 6 to Penticton hospital and 13 to Merritt hospital. The 4 deceased were transported by the BC coroners service. No passengers were left at scene. The area around the collision was searched by first responders.

BC Highway Patrol investigators have learned the following. The E-bus was travelling west along Hwy 97c from Kelowna towards Merritt when it encountered adverse road conditions. The E-bus went off road left, crossed the median and flipped onto its passenger side coming to rest in the eastbound lanes. Passers-by and local residents provided assistance by allowing passengers to warm up in their vehicles and providing blankets while emergency services arrived. All passengers were transported by BC Ambulance Service to local hospitals. There were no other vehicles involved in the collision. The E-bus was equipped with seat belts, unfortunately it appears the majority of passengers were not wearing them.

The passengers were a mix of local, non local and foreign nationals. This was a regularly scheduled commercial bus trip from Kelowna to Vancouver.

The road conditions were fluid, transitioning from clear wet roads to frozen with ice and snow on the road surface due to the time of day (sun setting) and changing weather conditions. Rain and hail was falling. RCMP Collision Re-constructionists attended the scene.

This matter is  still under active investigation. The E-bus remains in RCMP custody pending the investigation. The BC Highway Patrol is working with E-bus to return luggage and personal effects from the bus to the passengers.

 

If you witnessed the collision and have not spoken to investigators, or have dash-cam footage of the E-bus prior to the collision, or were a passenger that has not been identified and contacted by Police, please contact Corporal S. AUDLEY via email at: Samantha.audley@rcmp-grc.gc.ca.

Previous coverage:

On December 24th 2022 at approximately 18:14 hours the BC Highway Patrol and Merritt RCMP were advised of a single vehicle collision around Loon Lake on Hwy 97c east of Merritt BC.

Police and emergency services responded and located a commercial passenger bus that had gone off road to the left and rolled onto its passenger side coming to rest in the eastbound lanes. Preliminary information indicates the bus was travelling westbound prior to the collision. No other vehicles were involved.

The exact number of passengers has yet to be confirmed, however approximately 53 patients were transported to local hospitals in Kamloops, Kelowna and Penticton. We are currently in the process of locating and speaking with them. Due to the exigent circumstances and injuries many were transported to local hospitals prior to Police having the chance to identify them at scene. The driver of the bus is cooperating with Police.

We can confirm, tragically 4 passengers were found deceased. BC Coroners service attended the scene. We are attempting to complete next of kin notifications and will not be providing any further details about the deceased at this time.

The road conditions were described as very poor with ice and snow on the road surface along with rain and hail falling. RCMP Collision Re-constructionists attended the scene. This matter is still under active investigation.

A central phone line (250-545-2211) has been set up for friends and families seeking information as to the location of passengers.

If you witnessed the collision or have dash-cam video of the Bus travelling prior to the collision, please contact your local RCMP.A bus accident on the Okanagan Connector (Highway 97C) in the early evening of Dec 24 resulted in 52 patients transported to four Interior Health hospitals.

Upon arrival 36 patients were assessed and treated for injuries that ranged from serious to minor.

As of 9:30 a.m. today, eight patients remained in the care of hospitals in Penticton, Kelowna and Kamloops. For those remaining in hospital, two are in serious condition and two have non-life threatening injuries.

A central phone line (250-545-2211) was established for families needing information about the location of loved ones.

Although the number of patients remaining in hospital is low, this is a life-altering incident for all involved, from the initial physical injuries to the emotional and spiritual impacts of an incident such as this. 

Our thoughts are with the families and patients, as well as the many first responders at the scene, who were impacted by this tragic incident.

Our deep gratitude to the many Interior Health staff and physicians already working or who came in to the hospitals to help care for the high number of patients who needed immediate care.

Categories: General

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